Monday, August 26, 2019
The Taxman walks down his drive and opens the front passenger door. He looks flustered and in the mood for a whinge and a moan. Nat West Bank on Tudor Square in West Bridgford and Trent Barton buses are the latest to suffer from a complaining email from our man - I hope to God tonight's meal goes smoothly and that the game doesn't end up 0-0.
I love the town of Stamford with its 17th Century buildings and five medieval churches. British heavyweight Leicester showman Daniel Lambert died in the town back in 1809. He weighed in at 52 stone 11lbs. It took twenty men half an hour to put the coffin into the trench. The local football team Stamford AFC are nicknamed the Daniels in his memory.
We take a stroll around the quaint, historic streets on a sweltering summer's 'evening. We view the menus at The Crown Hotel and Tobie Norris - both are ridiculously overpriced. The Taxman shouts up a pint of lager and a lime and soda for his chauffeur at the London Inn on St John's Street, as the dulcet tones of Morrissey and The Smiths, singing Ask Me, are heard on the pub jukebox.
Stamford's Zeeco Stadium is a few miles out of town. We're watching Ilkeston Town again, as I liked what I saw at the New Manor Ground last Saturday. I say hello to Ilson 'keeper Ross Durrant who is warming up - his Dad, Dick, is a good mate of mine. Dick dashes off in the direction of the pie stall after we share our thoughts on last Saturday's game versus Cleethorpes.
Ilson are work-in-progress and spend most of the first half with their backs to the wall. They are in debt to Durrant, who pulls off a string of acrobatic saves. Incredibly they take the lead through the impressive Cameron Dear, who finishes off a fine flowing move.
The lead doesn't last too long in the second half after a player is caught dilly-dallying on the ball, instead of launching it into orbit. Ilson play with heart, and with fortune on their side take the lead with Dear doubling his tally. The Daniels restore parity and then go in front with the goal of the game from substitute Pearson Mwanyongo. A fourth goal doesn't flatter Stamford, who are more streetwise and tenacious on the night.
Wednesday evening is spent down at Stoke Lane watching Carlton Town v Sutton Coldfield Town. Sticky's favourite, Oliver Clarke, loves a tackle and a yellow card. He doesn't disappoint his number one supporter, leaving his foot in, just a few yards from where I'm stood, and sadly for him, in full view of the referee's assessor. I tease him on twitter later in the evening. He takes the joshing in good spirit.
Carlton win the game 1-0 through a penalty, but the highlight of the night is meeting the three-piece band from Sutton Coldfield who went viral with their 'Tequila' song last season. I enjoy the evening supporting my local club. The only downside is that I've been bitten to high heaven by mosquitos and gnats. I wake up in the morning more pock-marked than Dennis Potter's Singing Detective.
I've got a sporting extravaganza lined up next week. FA Cup action on Saturday, two T20 games at Trent Bridge, Forest v the Sheep and hopefully 'The Lincoln' v Everton. I'm worried and anxious that I won't get a ticket for the Imps v Toffees at Sincil Bank. They go on general sale on Friday evening at 7 p.m.
I sit in the garden waiting to hear the theme tune of Emmerdale Farm strike up; it's my alarm call to log onto the Imps website and try and bag a ticket. An hour later, after fruitless attempts, and the internet spinning wheel of misfortune, I finally give up the ghost. I'm blowing a gasket. The world is rubbish, particularly the event organiser, Eventbrite. I go off to bed in a huff.
I trudge down the stairs in the morning cussing and complaining. I flick on the kettle and make a nice brew of Yorkshire Tea. I crank up the laptop and have one final go at securing a ticket for 'The Lincoln.' Minutes later I'm doing the Conga around the room to an Orange Juice and Edwyn Collins back catalogue on YouTube. Life is brilliant, I love Eventbrite; they're the World's best events organiser. Sincil Bank here I come. Yippee, a chippy tea too.
What a day to be alive; the Amazon driver has just tipped up with a bottle of limited edition Hendrick's Midsummer Solstice. I skip down to Tesco to buy some cucumber and orange to garnish it with. I clock that birthday boy Trumpy Bolton is up in Inverness for a week's 'sightseeing' (drinking). Extra staff have been drafted in from the Highlands to serve his needs.
Staveley is only a short drive away. We're both excited to see what years Gambo's Pick of the Pops are today. Christ on a bike, it's 1971 and it's absolute pants. Ms Moon isn't impressed with Atomic Rooster; neither am I. We switch to Union Jack, who are playing the excellent Bronski Beat and Cry Boy Cry.
The main car park is choc-a-bloc at Staveley's Inkersall Road ground; luckily there's an overflow car park. I've not been in ages and have a guilty conscience, as I admire Staveley owner Terry Damms, who always makes me feel so welcome.
I first clapped my eyes on Staveley, and met Terry, over 10 years ago at an East Midlands Counties League game at Borrowash Victoria. (You're going to bore us with the Lee Gregory story again aren't you Sticky?) Yes, I am. I saw a 19-year-old Gregory, who had been released by Sheffield Wed and had fallen out with football, play that day at Step 6 level. His rise since has been meteoric. He has made over 200 Football League appearances for Millwall and Stoke City and has bagged 64 goals.
I've banged on all week that there's a sniff of an FA Cup upset here today. Lincoln United have started the season badly and are shipping goals for fun. I watch their warm-up and observe body language. Two players exchange words after a sloppy drill goes pear-shaped.
I didn't want to bother Terry in the clubhouse; he has a lot on his plate, as well as the £2900 prize-winning money on offer, which is a lifeline for clubs like Staveley, as it's never included in the season budget. I clock him wandering around the ground and introduce him to Ms Moon. The guy's so chilled, but I know inside that his stomach will be churning with nervous excitement and the expectation that his young guns can compete with a team from a League above.
The Trojans of Staveley are ON IT from the first whistle. They've done their homework and have had Lincoln watched midweek during a 5-0 drubbing in Cleethorpes. Everything comes down their right-hand side as the Lincoln left-back is overloaded. The first goal has been coming for donkeys.
The second half is as you were. The Trojans are a joy to watch; they get the ball down and bamboozle their opponents. They want it so badly and get their just desserts with a curling left-foot sublime finish.
Lincoln pull a goal back; there's a nervy finish, but only one team deserves to win. I'm chuffed to bits for Terry and the committee. I look forward to hearing who they draw in the next round, because we'll be there!
Man of the Match: Terry Damms
Sunday, August 18, 2019
I had pitched to Ms Moon about a day out next Saturday in Stourport-on-Severn, a town in the Wyre Forest District of North Worcestershire. A spot of lunch in the small riverside town of Bewdley, followed by some Midland Premier League action between Stourport Swifts and Coventry United should be just the job.
I check the five day BBC weather app with trepidation and dread. A monsoon of biblical proportions is forecast on Friday; the River Severn will probably burst its banks. The good lady isn't too chuffed with the alternative: Ilkeston Town v Cleethorpes Town. I put my sales training to good use and close the deal.
I spend Tuesday evening with The Taxman, fresh from his holidays in Lanzarote and Cornwall. A frugal Taxman always has his eyes out for a bargain. We have tea at Gamston Lock, a few miles outside Nottingham. Chicken Rotisserie is a Tuesday special at £6 per portion. He washes it down with a filthy pint of maids' water (lager) - leaving enough room for a jam roly-poly.
After tea, we head down the A453, driving into north-west Leicestershire towards the town of Coalville. It's £10 on the gate unless you're a pensioner like The Taxman. Hednesford Town are tonight's visitors in a Southern Premier League clash. I bump into an old mate of mine, Matt Gatter, who's with his Dad, Tony and another chap called Stuart, accompanied by his son Cameron, who I used to coach at Keyworth Cricket Club (before you ask, no I didn't teach him how to bat, thank God).
Matt's lad, Charlie, is one of 'Our Joe's' best mates. He previously played at Nottingham Forest and Burton Albion. He now turns out for Hednesford. Ironically, a lad I know called Tim Berridge, plays for Coalville, as does a boy called Luke Shaw, from Clifton, who played with the 'Keyworth Georgie Best' (Sticky jnr) at Keyworth United.
Coalville are coasting at 2-0 up; the second goal is scored by a proper old school, powerhouse centre-half called Jack Duggan, who recently signed from Stourbridge. Foolishly, a Coalville player is sent off for a reckless tackle. The Pitmen nick a goal back and can consider themselves unlucky not to have gone home to Staffordshire with a point after a barnstorming final 15 minutes.
Any chance of a game on Wednesday is washed away by a month's worth of rain. On Friday I'm on a leaving do for a lady called Michelle who is leaving Ideagen PLC, a technology company who I work for. It must be one hell of a job offer she has accepted, as my employer is head and shoulders the best company I've ever worked for.
A Leaving do lunch is held at the Rancliffe Arms in the village of Bunny; a pub whose landlord in the 1970s was Alan Hill, Brian Clough's chief scout at The City Ground. There's been police kicking about the place for most of the morning as the petrol station adjacent to the pub has been the victim of a smash and grab in the early hours. You can still get petrol, but rule out any chance of 20 John Player Blue. I'm totally stuffed on Friday afternoon after ploughing my way through a Cajun chicken club sandwich and some delicious homemade Mars Bar cakes, baked by my colleague Emma, as a parting gift for Michelle.
I break the speed limit up Carlton Hill on Friday teatime, reaching the giddy heights of 31mph. I jump in a cab and head back into town. I hook up with my old boss Lee and a workmate Josh, who plays footy for Awsworth Villa in the Notts Senior League. We chew the cud over a pint in the Barley Twist (an old sweet shop) on Carrington Street, before ticking off Cured a few doors up.
It's hosing it down with rain. Josh kindly books an Uber taxi up to The Embankment, one of Sticky's favourite watering holes. We enjoy great banter and plenty of alcoholic beverages as we toast Michelle farewell. I'm the oldest person on the works' do by a country mile. The young 'uns invite me into town for a few more scoops. What the chuff am I doing in Lloyds No.1 Bar on Carlton Street? At one stage I thought I was going to be refused entry and ID'd for being too old. The music and drinks are below par. It was that bad I was going to ask the DJ for a Sam Smith song. I say goodnight and hold up the 25B Mapperley NCT bus on King Street whilst I download the ticket on the app - I apologise to all and sundry as I stumble into my seat.
I gingerly trudge down the stairs in the morning. Ms Moon makes an extra-strong coffee. I head into West Bridgford, crossing over Trent Bridge. The big news from Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club is that all-rounder Samit Patel has gone on a four-day cricket month's loan to Glamorgan. Reaction on social media is ugly. Colwick's anti-BREXIT campaign manager, Jitz Jani, a huge Notts fan, makes his feelings known and is clearly distraught.
I hand over some football kit to Our Joe who is making his League debut for Keyworth Utd Ressies today at the World famous Clifton All Whites, a club he was also proud to represent, and where my good friend James 'Tosh' Turner is the first team manager.
I've lined up a treat for Ms Moon; a re-visit to the Spanish Bar in Ilson. We make the short trip whilst we listen to 1983 on Gambaccini's Pick of the Pops - Depeche Mode are on the dukey. KC and the Sunshine Band are No.1 with Give it Up - Ms Moon says she gets them mixed up with The Kinks (answers on a postcard please).
The Spanish Bar is a beauty. I'm so excited that Ms Moon stops the car so I can peruse the beer menu whilst 'Penelope Pitstop' parks up the 'Rolls Royce.' I have a pint of The Big Kahuna from the Tiny Rebel stable. A pro-BREXIT supporter, resplendent in a T-Shirt, points us in the direction of the back garden. I ask Ms Moon if we are in Mansfield? The floral display in the back yard is mouth-watering. The owners take great pride. I'd drink here every night if I was a resident of the town.
Ilkeston is a town in the Borough of Erewash in Derbyshire, and Sticky Palms loves the place. It has a population of just under 40,000. Its traditional industries were coal mining, iron working and lace making. Ilkeston Market Place is the site of a Charter fair which has taken place in the town for over 760 years - making it older than Nottingham's Goose Fair. Famous residents from Ilson include: the actors William Roache (Ken Barlow) and Robert Smith (Wolfie Smith).
It's £7 on the gate at the New Manor Ground. We buy a couple of 50/50 tickets. I adore the ground and admire the loyal supporters who have rocked up through thick and thin. Through my 13 years of groundhopping there always seems to be a black cloud hanging over the Club.
Ilson owner Alan Hardy (of Notts County fame) has a scattergun hiring and firing managerial recruitment policy. Despite promotion last season, Lee 'Fats' Fowler has parted company with the Robins, along with his backroom staff. Walsall Wood rolled them over 4-0 on my last visit back in April, as Ilson limped over the finishing line.
The game kicks off after we suffer Rag'n' Boneman and George Ezra on the decks. It's as dull as dishwater as they eye one another up. Ms Moon and I love the Owls of Cleethorpes; we've watched them lots of times over the years and rate match-winner 'Jon Boy' Oglesby who for some strange reason is playing left-back today.
The first half would send Ken Barlow to a 45-minute catnap in the Rovers Return snug. Ilson show too much respect to Cleethorpes who are fancied for promotion - I guess with six new signings they just want to stay in the game.
Ross Durrant is in the nets for Ilson. Boy oh boy, how lucky are they to have a 'keeper of his stature as their custodian. He keeps them in the game with some show-stopping blocks. A lacklustre Jordan Nadat is withdrawn as Ilson make a triple substitution. It brings energy and ideas as they pepper Cleethorpes' goal with chances from corners and set pieces.
The mastermind behind it all is the fleet-footed ex Notts County scholar Reco Fyfe. I love his risktaking and fast feet - £7 to watch his balance, dead ball corners and passing is a steal. Ilson will feel hard done by after a superb final 20 minutes. But on reflection, a draw is a fair result.
Man of the Match: Reece Fyfe
Sunday, August 11, 2019
The Hatters of Stockport are due to play the Pies at Meadow Lane this evening. I enjoyed watching them roll over Boston United at York Street last season in the National League North. Their star man, Matty Warburton, has left for Northampton Town. Former ex Blackburn Rovers trainee striker, Alex Curran, will be warming the bench for them. I'm excited by the 20-year-old who impressed me on a couple viewings at Colne last season. It's a shrewd piece of business by Stockport manager 'Big Jim Gannon.' Remember the name, Alex Curran.
I have a pre-match bike ride down the River Trent, past Nottingham Forest's City Ground, doing a full circuit of the rowing course at a windswept National Water Sports Centre at Holme Pierrepont, before throwing the bike into the boot of the car at Nottinghamshire County Hall. I take a short stroll over Trent Bridge. The Embankment pub is a listed historic building where Jesse Boot opened his first dispensary back in 1905. It's also where I'll have my tea tonight. Homemade chilli con carne is washed down by a pint of Sleepwalker; a current favourite real ale of mine from the Castle Rock Brewery.
I'm sat in the ground a full forty-five minutes before kick-off, as I enjoy the build-up to a game. It's been a horrible twelve months for the Magpies' supporters. Alan Hardy's business went belly up, which resulted in the owner putting the club up for sale. They now find themselves, for the first time in their long history, out of the Football League.
The match is a cracker for the neutral. Stockport have a following just shy of 1000. It adds to an already good atmosphere created by Notts' fans on the Kop. Jim O'Brien gives the Pies the lead with a curling shot from outside of the area. Stockport fluff their lines in front of goal time and time again before equalising in the second half through Elliot Osbourne, following a sublime passage of passing and movement. They will wonder how they didn't leave Meadow Lane with three points. It could have been much worse had Dutch winger Enzio Boldewijn not blazed over in the dying embers of the game.
At the match, I had a good chat with the father of Everton defender Mason Holgate. He's best mates with Mitch Roses's Dad (Rose plays for Notts). Both players grew up in Doncaster. Holgate's Dad, a lovely bloke, explains that his son hasn't had a sniff since Marco Silva was appointed Toffees' manager. He was shipped out on loan to West Bromwich Albion, where he enjoyed his time playing for the Baggies and then manager Darren Moore.
It's Saturday morning and game day. I'm so excited about the trip up to Rotherham. I drive over to the village of Keyworth, my old stomping ground, to pick up some medication - those blood pressure tablets might come in handy later today.
I hear the doorbell go. I race down the stairs and open the door expecting Jeff Brazier to be waving a big, fat cheque in my face from the People's Postcode Lottery for £30,000. It's the window cleaner; he wants £21
Kim, Aggie and Mrs Doubtfire would have been proud of my efforts with Henry the Hoover this morning, as I attack upstairs and downstairs - I end up with quite a dab on. Ms Moon has kindly packed a few sandwiches, as we head out of the door just after 12:30 p.m. The drive up north should be a formality - of course, it isn't.
Sweet mother of Jesus, Ms Moon has Virgin Radio on. There's only so much soft American rock I can stomach since the cruise. I flick over to Union JACK radio. My faith in British music is restored with the excellent cover version of Eloise by punk rock band The Damned. Ms Moon soon has the bottom lip quivering as she loves a bit of Pick of the Pops on Radio 2 hosted by Paul Gambaccini. 1968 is a cracking year for music.
The M1 is gridlocked between Junction 32 and 33. Sat Nav re-routes us off at Junction 31. The remaining ten miles takes longer than a week in prison. There's the usual spat about where to park the car before we stick it in a spot a few minutes' walk away from the ground.
Rotherham has a population of 110,00 people. It was once well known for its coal mining, steel industry, glass making and flour milling. It is the hometown to the Chuckle Brothers, Jive Bunny, David Seaman, William Hague and Coronation Street actress Lynne Perrie (the sour-faced fag ash Lil Ivy Tilsley).
I have a trot around the New York Stadium, taking some snaps, as it's a ground I've never ticked off. There's a poor turnout in the Fan Zone despite one of Katy Perry's better tunes blasting out of the PA system.
Ms Moon and I stroll up to the visiting end turnstiles. There's already a massive queue and a bit of a commotion. Turns out one sniffer dog has the unenviable task of poking his or her snout into the pocket area of every supporter. It's £22 for the ticket; I don't bother with a programme - the Groundhopping Gestapo will disown me. Anyhow, I can get the team lists off twitter. We're housed in the Meditemp South Stand.
It's a nice enough ground and the seats I've bought are spot on. The DJ spins Anastasia and the Rolling Stones before playing a New York medley of tunes. The teams emerge from the tunnel. I'm astounded by the size and height of the Rotherham players. I ask Ms Moon if we have mistakingly found our way into the Rotherham Titans Rugby Club. Matt Rhead would have been licking his lips at the prospect of a ruck with these lads, sadly he left Sincil Bank a couple of weeks ago.
Lincoln and Rotherham were two leagues apart last season. This will be the stiffest test the Imps have had since visiting The Emirates in 2017. City are under the cosh from the first whistle. A swirling 40 mph wind doesn't help our cause. We can't get our passing going and aren't picking up the bits. Poor finishing and stoic defending keep the visitors in the game. Lincoln refuse to buckle and aren't intimated by the size and strength of their opponents.
John Akinde and Bruno Andrade both fail to make the starting line-up despite bagging 25 goals between them last season. Tyler Walker, son of Nottingham Forest legend Des Walker is on a season-long loan from the Tricky Trees. He ploughs a lone furrow up top for the Imps and is starved of the ball.
We draw for breath at the break. Ms Moon rummages around in her 'magic bag' and produces a chocolate mint Aero bar. I chat with some supporters sat behind us and catch up on all the gossip. I ask why Bruno Andrade hasn't started. They seem to think the fleet-footed winger has been unsettled by all the transfer talk.
Andrade's replacement, Jorge Grant, swings in a pinpoint corner on 48 minutes, it's met by the head of Harry Anderson on the near post to put the Imps two to the good. A shellshocked Rotherham are left reeling. City start to play some champagne football with diminutive, play-making, attacking midfielder Jack Payne pulling all the strings. This lad looks a bargain free transfer from Huddersfield Town. I say to Ms Moon he's the 'Lincoln Messi.'
The Millers throw the kitchen sink in a last-ditch effort to gain something from the game. Imps keeper, Josh Vickers, shows a safe pair of hands. He pulls off a world-class save with a few minutes remaining, getting down quickly, low to his right, to push a goalbound effort round the post.
The home fans are leaving in their droves. 'The Lincoln' wave them goodbye. At this rate, they'll all be home in time for the Brookside omnibus edition on Channel 4. We stay on to clap the lads off. To a man, they are out on their feet. The effort levels, refusal to lie down and the winning mentality instilled into them by the Cowley brothers, have seen them over the finishing line.
The stewards are over the top and unpleasant on our way back to the car. They lack wit, brain cells or humour too. "Chill out lads, go and download some Jive Bunny off Spotify," I remark, as Ms Moon and I pick up speed, mindful of my last visit to Rotherham United.
Attendance: 10,706 (2,320 visiting supporters)
Man of the Match: Jack Payne.
Monday, August 5, 2019
Ms Moon has a dodgy ankle, that's swelling up in the sweltering heat; she doesn't fancy the hard slog back uphill into town. My black and white (old school) Adidas Sambas negotiate the tight, cobbled, uneven streets of this beautiful city. I turn onto Archbishop Street and wander up to 'The Pub.'
On the 2nd May, 1999, Ollie Reed, along with a few friends and crew members of the frigate HMS Cumberland (docked in the harbour) downed eight pints of lager, twelve double rums and half a bottle of whiskey in a drinking competition with the British Navy. He collapsed and died en route to hospital at the age of 61. What made it sadder, was, that he hadn't drank in months. He was buried in County Cork, Ireland. On his gravestone read the epitaph "He made the air move." Ironically, 'The Pub' is closed this morning and it's gone 11 a.m. Ollie wouldn't be best pleased, nor would blog drinking-legend Trumpy Bolton (‘The Keyworth Oliver Reed').
We head back to Barcelona on Sunday in some of the roughest seas I've experienced since an overnighter from Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire back in 1989. Half the boat succumbs to seasickness, including a pasty Ms Moon. The final day of the cruise is pretty much a write-off, although it doesn't taint the wonderful memories of Rome, Athens, Florence and Pisa. Royal Caribbean cruises ticked off all the right boxes except for some of the awful American music we had to suffer. "Any chance of playing a British artist?" I sarcastically asked the DJ one day. Next song on was 'Stay With Me' by Sam Smith - I never complained again.
There's more bad news for Ms Moon on Monday evening with only intermittent coverage of the Love Island final due to a software update on our TV and a Sky box malfunction. A youth I know is set to land a £10k accumulator if Tommy Fury and Molly Mae win the competition. At 1/6 on, it's a formality. I hear on the radio the following morning that another couple have won. As they say on the adverts - "when the fun stops, STOP!"
It was meant to be a short trip to watch Carlton Town v Shepshed Dynamo on Tuesday evening, but I notice on the excellent On the Road Blog twitter feed that the fixture has been postponed. I pick up my repaired bike from Hawk Cycles in Netherfield, unpack the remaining suitcases, before driving over Trent Bridge and calling by the Ruddington Fish Bar for a chippy tea.
Clifton All Whites Green Lane ground is a few minutes' drive away. Tonight they entertain club-in-crisis Ilkeston FC. Earlier in the day the Robins lost the services of manager Lee Fowler. The Club's owner, 'Big Alan Hardy', recently sold up at National Conference Premier side Notts County. I hook up with my two lads and some of the team I coached last year. I have a stroll around the ground and bump into John Ramshaw - it would be easier to tell you which clubs Rammers hasn't managed in the East Midlands. He talks of retirement .... lol ... come on John! Ilson run out 4-1 winners, although the scoreline flatters them.
Wednesday evening is spent at Rushcliffe Leisure Centre, in West Bridgford, a venue that Sting and The Police played at before they were famous - Trumpy Bolton was propping up the bar that night, supping Skol. I watch Jack and Joe play for Keyworth Ressies versus West Bridgford U19s. An entertaining game ends at three apiece. There's time for a quick pint (Sleepwalker from the Castle Rock stable) with blog legend James 'Tosh' Turner at the Stratford Haven before turning in for the night.
On Thursday, I pop down Trent Bridge to bag a ticket for the Outlaws v Bears, Vitality Blast game on Friday evening. I get some well-needed miles into my legs with an eight-mile bike ride down the Trent. I spend the rest of the evening slumped in a chair in the garden, listening to the first day of the Ashes being analysed on Five Live - Steve Smith, eh? What a player. Some oiks in the Hollies Stand boo the Australian when he reaches three figures.
I listen to the start of play on Friday on Test Match Special. A plane engine can be heard droning above Edgbaston. Those boring toffs, the Barmy Army, have hired a plane to display a banner asking the Queen to knight Ben Stokes - jog on lads, and take that chuffing trumpet with you, too.
I manage a quick pint of Island Party pale ale from the Neon Raptor taproom in Sneinton Market. A large group of us gather at Trent Bridge for the visit of the Birmingham Bears. Tom Moores gives the crowd a masterclass in slogging, bludgeoning 69 runs off 38 balls, as the Outlaws cruise to victory.
The rest of the evening is spent down The Avenue, in West Bridgford - not exactly my favourite spot. We're out celebrating Bruiser's birthday. It's £5.25 for a craft beer in Zinc. The Parlour and thankfully Bar 44 are full, so we are refused entry. We finish up in The Botanist. I'm surprised to see some Notts Outlaws players sat in the beer garden as they have a big match up in Manchester tomorrow evening. Others will say they've earnt a few beers.
I've had nothing to eat since midday on Friday. My stomach rumbles as I climb into the car first thing on Saturday morning. Ms Moon and I commit the cardinal sin of having a McDonald's breakfast - it's absolute filth and repeats on me for the rest of the morning. Union Jack radio are playing some banging tunes - Echo and the Bunnymen, The Farm and The Shaymen get my fingers tapping on the car dashboard.
The journey up North is a bloody nightmare. Sat nav takes me off the A1 at Bawtry and through Doncaster. The South Yorkshire town is clogged up with traffic. After a three and a quarter-hour drive, I finally park up in Shildon town centre, ten miles north of Darlington. Thankfully Test Match Special has kept me company. The actor Keith Allen is on excellent form as the lunchtime guest. He says Derek Randall was his favourite cricketer when growing up as a teenager. 'Rags' or 'Arkle' is what we call Randall in our neck of the woods. He was my inspiration and the reason why I played cricket for my village for over 20 years.
I'm desperate for the loo, so pop into the Royal George. There's no real ale on, so I opt for a soft drink before taking a stroll around the town centre, passing a church where a wedding is taking place. I stand by the War Memorial, saddened by the long list of men who lost their lives fighting for our country. I cheer myself up with a light snack from Milligan's, a local bakery.
Shildon is a town in County Durham with a population of 10,000. It was well known for its railway works which were closed in 1984 with the loss of 1,750 jobs. The football club was established in 1890. They play their football at Dean Street in the Northern League Division One. One of their former players, Lewis Wing, scored for Middlesbrough last night in an exciting Championship opener at Luton Town's Kenilworth Road.
It's £7 on the gate, £2 for a superb programme and £1 for a 50/50 ticket. The ground is an absolute beauty and well worth the trip. Two stands run along both touchlines, although the more striking one appears to be out of bounds. The pitch is immaculate, with the grass thick and lush. The PA guy is playing Justin Timberlake - crikey, I feel like I'm back on the cruise ship again.
There's a minute's silence for ex Shildon player Kevin Stoneman who died suddenly last weekend. He'd recently been appointed as a European scout for Newcastle United under Steve Bruce's stewardship.
There's nothing much doing in the first twenty minutes as both teams weigh each other up. It gives me the chance to have a chat with Daley the Dachshund and a lad in a wheelchair who is a diehard Shildon supporter. The Railwaymen take the lead on 21 minutes through a smart finish by Matty Robson. The visitors, Thornaby, look tidy going forward. They are back on level terms on 43 minutes with a fine finish by Louis Murphy. They don't manage to see it out until half-time with Shildon's Zak Atkinson scoring at the fag end of the first half.
Bobby Brown's Two Can Play That Game is blasting out of the PA system as I take a peek at a crowded social club, admiring all the photos and memorabilia hanging from the walls.
The home side run riot in the second half, scoring a further six goals without reply. Shildon's talisman, Billy Greulich-Smith, bags a deserved hat-trick. His unselfish running, first touch and goal-scoring prowess are easy on the eye.
Man of the Match: Billy Greulich-Smith
Attendance: 390 (Fourth highest attendance in the country at Step 5. The top 3 all in the Northern League)